by Jessica Boersema
“Grounded!” Elizabeth groans. “Of all times I could get grounded, it had to be summer vacation!” She runs her hand through her short, messy, black hair, trying to arrange her features before she goes to face her mother. Her tall lean body aches from all the gardening and other chores she has been forced to do in the past few weeks.
Finally, having calmed herself down, Elizabeth walks into the kitchen trying to act ‘normal’. Her mother and father are sitting at the table having a quiet conversation over a cup of coffee. Her mother looks up over the rim of her glasses as she walks in.
“Good morning!” Elizabeth says, as cheerfully as she can muster, her eyes sparkling. Her mother motions for her to sit, and she sits down at her usual seat across from her father. Her mother gets up and brings her a bowl of cereal. She sits back down and watches Elizabeth with the same vibrant green eyes that her daughter had inherited from her before clearing her throat to speak.
“Liz, your father and I have decided that today will be the last day that you’re grounded.” She pauses. “Today we want you to clean out the attic.”
Elizabeth freezes, a chill coming over her.
“Okay!” She says, trying to be cheerful but clearly failing. Her mother looks at her father for support.
“You know it’s not haunted right?” He asks her. Elizabeth nods her head even though her mind is screaming no. She goes back to eating her cereal, but faster this time. Before long she pushes back her chair and places her bowl in the sink. After she washes it she turns to look at her parents.
“I’m going to get started in the attic now.” Without waiting for a response she hurries out of the room. She goes upstairs and walks into the spare bedroom beside hers.
Before her is a rickety staircase, clearly advanced in years. She reaches beside her and flicks the lights on. Taking a deep breath, she starts up the stairs. She doesn’t care what her parents say. She doesn’t care if they don’t believe in ghosts; she still hates the attic. It still creeps her out. Maybe it’s because she has been reading too many crime novels, she doesn’t know. It seems like she has to put so much work into just putting one foot in front of the other. She grips the railing so hard her knuckles turn white as the stairs beneath her creak and groan.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” she chuckles nervously to herself. This seems to give her enough courage to get all the way up the stairs. At the top though, all her courage fades as she finds herself in a totally dark room. She puts her arms above her. She feels this way and that until she finds what she’s looking for. She pulls hard on the light string, almost breaking it. The light flickers on and illuminates the small room. Elizabeth’s eyes travel across the room. She’s not impressed with what she sees. Piles and piles of boxes await sorting. Even worse, everything is covered in dust.
“I guess my allergies will be bad after this,” She mumbles to herself. She starts with the pile of boxes closest to her. She reaches as high as she can, trying to reach the box at the top of the pile. Her grip slips and the box crashes to the floor! Her heart hammers. She stoops down and starts shoving everything back into the box. After she finishes she kicks the box aside and looks around the room once more. She soon realizes that the whole attic is already organized. Someone had taken the time to stack all of the boxes according to what they had in them. They are all labeled so Elizabeth knows exactly what is in each box. There isn’t really anything extra she can do, but she doesn’t want to go back downstairs. Instead she decides to explore a little bit. She reads all of the labels on the boxes seeing if any of them peaks her interest. She’s just about to give up when she sees a box that says : GRANDMA’S THINGS. She picks the box up, places it in the middle of the room, and sits beside it.
She had never really known her grandmother well. A few months after she was born her grandparents had gotten into a car accident that resulted in the loss of her grandfather. After that day she was told that her grandmother never spoke a word again. Because her grandmother never spoke, Elizabeth had never taken the time to get to know her. A year ago her grandmother passed away. Elizabeth didn’t even know that they still had some of her belongings. She wipes her dusty hands on her pants and opens the box.
The box has two things in it, a photo album and a box. Elizabeth lifts the box out. It is made entirely out of wood that is painted over with black. On the front, the paint was chipped off revealing the wood underneath and making a small polka-dot design. A small handle, just big enough to fit her index and thumb on, is resting on the lid. The lid opens with a little click. Elizabeth runs her fingers in the inside of the cover feeling the soft velvet under her fingers. She balances the little box’s legs on her own. Finally she looks down into the box. Inside the box is overflowing with old pieces of paper. Carefully Elizabeth lifts the first piece of paper out of the box, unfolds it and starts to read.
Your father and I are so excited to meet our first grandchild. I feel so honored that you named her after me. We’re flying back from Hawaii soon and hope to meet you at the airport on the 28th. Your father’s already going on about how he’s going to teach her how to fish and ride her bike. I think he’s more excited than me! Hope to see you soon.
Your loving mother,
Elizabeth’s breath caught in her throat. These were letters that her grandmother had written to her mom about her! She pulled out another letter.
We can’t wait to see you and Dad. Elizabeth is the spitting image of you! She has your eyes, hair, and lungs! Man can she scream! Can’t wait for the 28th!
Does she really look like me? I’m even more excited now! Your father’s already fully packed and it’s a whole week until we have to leave!
P.S. Honey, how do you expect me to know it’s you if you sign off as ‘your daughter’?
Your loving mother,
She really does look like you! She even has little curls in her hair like you. I’m so excited for next week. It seems like time is moving at snail’s pace.
P.S. I’m your only daughter, mom. Who else would it be?
Elizabeth reaches into the box to pull out another letter but instead her hand closes around a piece of metal. Curious, she glances into the box. She pulls out a long heart shaped locket. She pops it open to find a picture of her grandmother and her mother. They are both beaming at the camera, their eyes twinkling with mischief. Elizabeth wipes away a tear she didn’t know she shed. She sits there for a while reading the letters over and over again while holding the locket tightly in her hand. It’s at that moment that she makes up her mind. She puts everything back into the box and heads back downstairs. She finds her mom playing with her little brother in their backyard.
“Mom!” Elizabeth calls to her. Her mother turns to face her.
“Are you done already?” She asks her. Elizabeth shakes her head. She hands the box to her mother.
“I found these in the attic and I thought maybe you would want to keep it closer to you.” Her mother looks confused, but takes the box. She opens the box. Elizabeth had put the locket at the top open making sure that it was the first thing that her mother saw.
It’s a bunch of letters that you and Grandma wrote to each other before Grandpa died,” She explains to her. Elizabeth doesn’t know what she’s doing but all she knows is that her mother needs to have these letters. She needs something to remember her mother by. Her mother looks up and smiles.
“Thanks Liz!” She takes the locket out of the box and puts it on. Tears welling in her eyes, she holds on to it for a moment and then gives Elizabeth a big hug.